Flyers' Boucher will take any work he can get

Posted: November 19, 2010

BRIAN BOUCHER was getting lonely on the Flyers' bench.

Prior to being pressed into service last night to start the second period - after the Flyers and Lightning combined to tie a franchise record with nine goals in the first period - Boucher had not seen the ice since Oct. 25, during which Sergei Bobrovsky reeled off 12 starts in a row.

Only Montreal, Minnesota, Dallas and Washington had started their backup goaltender less than the Flyers. And Washington has been without goaltender Semyon Varlamov for most of the season; he was likely to split most of the action with Michael Neuvirth.

It was particularly lonely for Boucher on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, where the backup goaltender is forced to sit by himself in the team's tunnel due a lack of space on the bench.

"It's tough enough as it is," Boucher said. "But there, it's even tougher. It gets you away from the bench, you aren't interacting with your teammates, you don't have any feel for the game or what's going on."

Nashville, Carolina, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Phoenix are just some of the other arenas in the NHL where there isn't enough room for the goaltender. In Montreal, Boucher sits unprotected near a security guard, just a few feet away from fans - who can be harassing at times.

"You almost feel like a spectator yourself," Boucher said.

While Boucher said the fans were "pretty respectful" in Montreal - a few older ladies even politely asked him questions about the game - Boucher had been doing a lot of spectating recently, before last night.

That's not anything new for Boucher. Last year, after Michael Leighton took over on Dec. 23 when Boucher missed time with a finger laceration, Boucher didn't get another start until March 18.

He played in each of the final 13 games of the regular season, beating Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout on April 11 that started the Flyers' playoff run.

"It definitely helps that I've been through it before," Boucher said. " 'Bob' has played great.

"It's kind of reminiscent of my time in San Jose. This is how it went there. I would sit long stretches in a row with 'Nabby' getting the bulk of the starts. I was fine with that, since I had an idea what's coming."

Boucher said he "can't fault" head coach Peter Laviolette for starting Bobrovsky so often during this hot stretch. But even he was a little surprised when he found out that Bobrovsky would start the game in net last night, after Bobrovsky revealed in a Russian-language news publication that he was a little fatigued after Tuesday night's loss.

Laviolette said before the game that he isn't concerned about Bobrovsky's conditioning.

"No decisions are ever taken lightly," Laviolette said. "Since he's gotten here, Bob's numbers have been terrific. They're some of the best in the NHL. We're coming off a day off. He's a young kid. He's in shape. I'm not real concerned about it."

Bobrovsky entered last night second in the NHL in wins, fifth in save percentage and sixth in goals-against average.

Still, Boucher said he will take the work when he can get it. Even if it means being summoned off the bench cold in a game that's like a wild-west shootout.

"I'm not sweating it too much," Boucher said. "I've been here before. I've survived. I'll take it as it comes."

For a guy from Woonsocket, R.I., anything is better than answering questions from old ladies in French-Canada.

Leino deal coming?

A little less than a week from Thanksgiving, it may be time for Paul Holmgren and Ville Leino's agent, Bill Zito, to start talking turkey. Leino, who entered last night fourth in Flyers scoring with 15 points, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Holmgren said he would resume talks with Zito, who prefers face-to-face negotiations, on an extension once Zito was available. Zito's wife was pregnant with twins, preventing him from making the trip to Philly until he attended last night's game.

Zito also represents Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen.

Leino, 27, earns $800,000 this season. After sustaining nearly a point-per-game pace since last year's playoff run when he had 21 points in 19 games, Leino would be due a big raise.

The Flyers already have $57.7 million committed to next season's salary cap with 18 players. Next year's cap is expected to rise or stay the same as this year's $59.4 million cap.

"If he keeps getting a couple points a game, it gets harder and harder. Maybe we should sit him out," Holmgren, referring to Leino, deadpanned after signing Jeff Carter to an 11-year, $58 million extension last Saturday. "I've had conversations with Ville's agent. Obviously, he's a guy we want to keep in our organization, so we'll do what we can."

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